A large group representing various associations of Sri Lankans living in Europe met President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Hotel Cavalieri in Rome yesterday (3) and extended their fullest cooperation to the President’s efforts to take the country forward. They said that President’s leadership is needed in the future as well for the country’s peace, stability, development and national reconciliation.
“Hitherto we live away from the country we love our Motherland. We had fears and apprehensions about the country’s future before. We were relieved when you guided the country on the right path after defeating terrorism,” they said. Sri Lankans living in European Union countries such as UK, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland were among the group. The group comprised of Buddhist and Catholic religious leaders, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities, Sri Lanka Freedom Party supporters as well as supporters of other political parties. They said they are committed for the development of the country regardless of their political, racial or religious differences.
“We suffered from terrorism for 30 years. We fought against terrorists and not against Tamil people. Terrorist separatism does not help any community,” President said explaining Sri Lanka’s current situation. The President elaborating social and economic progress in the post-conflict period pointed out that the expenditure for the development activities in the Northern Province during the past five years is three times higher than the rest of the country. During a short period, Internally Displaced Persons were resettled, former combatants were rehabilitated and child soldiers were released, he said. He further said that the modern hospital constructed in Jaffna by his government is equipped with more facilities than the other hospitals in the island, President said. “It is only a handful of politicians who represented the LTTE and those who supported their cause do not acknowledge this progress. I could not change them,” President added.
Even though Rs. 1020 million was allocated from the last budget, the Northern Provincial Council has spent only Rs. 245 million, President pointed out.
President expressed his gratitude to the Sri Lankans living in Europe for staging demonstrations in Geneva in protest when a resolution against Sri Lanka was presented to the UN Human Rights Council. “You are our ambassadors. You can support to win the international struggle Sri Lanka is faced with,” President added.
Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of Social Services Mr. Felix Perera, Sri Lankan Ambassador in Holy See and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Mr. Ravinatha Aryasinha, Sri Lankan Ambassador in Italy Mr. Nawalage Bennet Cooray and Sri Lankan Ambassador in Germany Mr. Karunathilake Amunugama were also present.
President and First Lady Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa also attended a dinner hosted by His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at St. Thomas Cathedral. Cardinals Angelo Bagnasco and Bernard Law also attended the function.